(February 26, 2020) – Johnson & Johnson settled another talcum powder mesothelioma case yesterday. J&J was set to face trial in a talc meso lawsuit brought by a 62-year-old woman who alleged in her lawsuit complaint that asbestos in J&J baby powder caused her to develop mesothelioma. The settlement halted her trial just as it was about to begin.
New York Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffe had just finished instructing the Manhattan jury shortly after midday, when attorneys for J&J and the plaintiff, Laura Shanahan, met with the judge in chambers. They emerged moments later, and Judge Jaffe told the jury the trial was finished.
Ms.Shanahan wiped away tears as her attorney thanked the jurors for their service, for participating in the jury selection process, which he said helped the case reach resolution. Neither Ms. Shanahan’s lawyers nor J&J attorneys disclosed terms of the settlement.
Decades of Talc Use
Ms. Shanahan filed suit against J&J in New York Supreme Court in August 2018, a month after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. In an October 2018 deposition, she said she used J&J baby powder as part of her daily hygiene routine for several decades, ever since her mother used it on her when she was a child.
The deposition transcript records Ms. Shanahan’s testimony that her first memory of J&J’s baby powder was her mother using it to remove sand from her legs at the family’s beach house when she was 4 or 5 years old. Ms. Shanahan said she kept using the same powder as an adult after bathing.
Ms. Shanahan also testified that she has received multiple rounds of chemotherapy to treat her pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the cells that line the lungs.
The settlement is the second time this year that J&J has cut a mid-trial deal with a plaintiff who alleged asbestos in J&J’s talc caused her to develop mesothelioma.
FDA Finding tilted Field against J&J
On January 6, 2020, J&J reached a deal with plaintiff Linda O’Hagan, which stopped her ongoing trial in Alameda County, California. The jury in this case was also one of the first to hear of the FDA’s October 2019 discovery of asbestos in a bottle of talcum powder. That discovery tilted the field against J&J, which has always maintained that none of its baby powder has ever contained asbestos. The company has, nonetheless, paid several talcum powder mesothelioma victims. (J&J’s continued claims that none of its talc has ever contained asbestos begins to remind one of Captain Renault’s claiming to be “shocked” to find gambling going on in Casablanca, just moments before he is handed his winnings.)
Earlier this month, a jury in New Brunswick, New Jersey hit J&J with $750 million dollars in punitive damages — which was reduced to $186 million due to a state cap on punitives — in another case involving asbestos in J&J baby powder. A prior jury in the case had found in favor of several mesothelioma victims who claimed J&J’s products caused their cancers. Jurors awarded them $37.3 million in damages.
The case is Laura Shananan v. Johnson and Johnson Inc. et al., case number 190330-2018E, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.
Mesothelioma vs. Ovarian Cancer Cases
Johnson & Johnson continues to fight all allegations that talc in its baby powder and Shower-to-Shower products causes ovarian cancer when used for feminine hygiene. Though J&J has lost several jury verdicts in that litigation, it has also won some of those trials; and it has yet to pay a single dollar in compensation to any person who has won a talc ovarian cancer case. J&J has, however, now paid significant compensation (in amounts typically undisclosed, as in Ms. Shanahan’s case) to several people who have brought lawsuits which claim their mesothelioma was caused by exposure to Johnson & Johnson talcum powder.